Friday, November 04, 2016

Oil, gas and coal bust in Wyoming leads to budget cuts to drug treatment programs

The once booming coal, oil and gas industries in Wyoming are now going bust, leading to sharp budget cuts to state programs, Pamela King reports for Energywire as part of a series, "Busted," that explores the oil bust and boom. The oil boom in Wyoming helped reduce the state's unemployment rate from 7.2 percent in 2009 to 3.8 percent in 2014. In August the unemployment rate was 5.5 percent, "buoyed by shuttered oil production and massive layoffs at two of the country's largest coal mines." Layoffs have left workers with few options.

With Wyoming's economy in decline, Republican Gov. Matt Mead "this summer proposed a $248 million budget reduction," King writes. "With those cuts, resources to assist the state's unemployed coal and oil workers could be shrinking at the time they're most needed."

One area to take a big hit "are Wyoming's court-supervised drug treatment programs, or drug courts," King writes.  It's unclear what impact the slowing energy economy will have on substance abuse in Wyoming, but 'we're finding out,' said Judge Paul Phillips, who serves as the Gillette drug court's magistrate." Gillette's drug court has had to reduce its budget by 16 percent.

Wyoming leads the nation in drug courts per capita, with 25 court-supervised drug treatment programs for its 584,153 residents, King writes. "The Wyoming Department of Health was asked to cut its general fund by $90 million, or about 9 percent, for the 2017-18 biennium." (Read more)

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